President Donald Trump announced Monday that his administration would hand out 100 million coronavirus tests to states across the country, free of charge, for community distribution but stressed state leaders should use the additional resources to reopen schools.
The administration plans to ship the Abbott BinaxNOW point of care tests in batches and will distribute them on a per capita basis, according to officials working with the White House coronavirus task force. It’s unclear which states will receive the tests first
In a private call on Monday morning, Vice President Mike Pence pleaded with governors directly, saying that while they are free to use the tests as they see fit, the administration is distributing the tests with the “hope” that state leaders use them to reopening of schools.
The testing rollout comes as scientists, including those working with Trump’s own coronavirus task force, warn that Americans could face a significant risk in the upcoming months if governors continue to allow their residents to socialize in crowded indoor settings, including bars and restaurants, and if they do not adequately control the spread of the virus on college campuses. Even Pence, the leader of the task force, said Americans should expect the situation to worsen in the coming weeks. “Cases will rise in the days ahead,” he told reporters Monday in the Rose Garden.
Despite those warnings, Trump and his advisers in the White House continue to downplay fears of another COVID19 wave by overpromising the reach of the new infusion of testing supplies. Trump has repeatedly told the American people that a vaccine is just around a corner even as top officials say the public will not have access to the remedy until well into next year. On Monday, Trump deployed a similar tactic, saying his administration would send 100 million new COVID19 tests to help governors safely keep students in the classroom, a move he hailed as a significant accomplishment. But officials working on that effort said states would receive only 6.5 million tests in the first round and gave no indication of when the other 94.5 million tests would be distributed.
Trump has consistently praised his administration’s coronavirus response even as the nation’s death toll has climbed past 200,000 and his handling of the pandemic has been heavily scrutinized by officials. The president has also proudly flouted state’s coronavirus restrictions as he returned to full-fledged rallies in recent weeks.
That disregard for state restrictions has been further coupled with him continuing to lash out at Democratic led states, demanding that they reopen even though the virus continues to spread and kill.
The president continued that approach Monday when it came to “lockdowns,” saying such a move “can be very harmful.”
“And we have too many states that are locked down right now, the governors are, nobody knows what the governors are doing actually,” Trump said during his speech.
Trump’s message was echoed, as usual, by Pence. After touting the improving coronavirus situations in the sun belt states that had been rocked by the virus this summer, Pence did admit that ten states were seeing cases and COVID-19 test positivity rising. But that, coupled with the testing announcement made Monday, Pence said, meant that “the American people should anticipate that cases will rise in the days ahead.” But after once again praising the testing news, Pence declared “we’re ready.”